Tips for Your New Dog
So many people have adopted a new dog during this time when we could all use a furry companion to brighten our day. Since most of us are staying home, working from home, or have kids home all day due to school cancelations, this seems like the perfect time to adopt a dog. If you are in that boat, and have taken advantage of your new at-home routine to introduce a dog or puppy to your home, here are some tips to help your new dog get acclimated!
1. Be Patient. Dogs can take anywhere from three to six months before to feel completely settled into their new home. Which means it may take some time before they really start coming out of their shells, and showing their true personalities. Make sure you give him the time he needs to get acclimated with his new home, and his new family. So if your new dog is spending a lot time hiding under the table, or seeking refuge in his crate, thats ok! He just needs more time to feel comfortable enough to really explore. Always let your dog do his exploring on his terms. Allow him the choice to come over to you, or your kids, on his own, rather than picking him up in a bear hug, or placing him in your squealing kids lap before he is ready to do so. Giving him choice will increase his confidence and trust in you, and he will likely choose to seek you out faster next time if you give him the time to make the choice on his own. Don't worry, if you really wanted your dog to be a cuddle puppy on the couch, he will likely learn the wonders of couch life soon enough!
2. Create a Routine. Dogs benefit greatly when they know what is coming when. Imagine not knowing when you are going to get your next meal, or if you are going to find a comfortable place to sleep. Start feeding your dog at specific times a day, every day, usually first thing in the morning, and again at the start of the evening. Give them a place of their own to sleep and rest, and allow them access to it at all times. Part of a routine is letting the dog know that if she chooses to rest on her own bed or crate, that you will allow her that rest time, and you and/or your kids will respect that. Create a routine around potty times. Depending on how old your new dog is, or if they have never been potty trained before, you'll need to schedule potty trips outside more frequently in order to aid potty training. With young puppies, or adult dogs who are new to potty training, I recommend taking potty trips every two to three hours to help curb inside accidents. Schedule your walks and play times as well, especially if you are working from home and need to designate certain times for rest (while you have a Zoom meeting), and other times to get that energy out with a walk (during your lunch break, or after work is over).
3. Listen to Your Dog. By this I mean respect your new dogs likes and dislikes. If your new dog growls when you try to pick him up, listen to that. He is trying to tell you that he is uncomfortable with that behavior, and for now, while you are trying to build each others trust, you should respect that. There will be time later on to train your dog to be more comfortable with certain situations that you must perform (such as holding your dogs feet for nail trims), but for now he also needs to know that you will listen when he tells you he doesn't like something. Don't punish him for growling either, it is one of the few ways he has of conveying to you that he is uncomfortable before resorting to something more serious, like a snap or bite. Also pay attention to the things he likes. Does he turn into mush when you stroke his chest? Or do his eyes go soft and relaxed when you sing and scratch his ears? These can be helpful behaviors to have in your pocket if you find yourself needing to help your dog calm down in stressful or high energy times.
4. Provide Enrichment. Never heard this term in relation to dogs before? Well welcome to a whole new world of doggy fun! Enrichment is any item or activity we can provide animals that may increase natural, desirable behaviors, and decrease undesirable behaviors, which in turn can help keep the animal mentally and physically satisfied. For example, with our dogs, a desirable behavior we may look to increase is chewing appropriate dog toys, while also decreasing chewing the couch, but to do that we have to give them things that are interesting to them to chew on. I often hear people say, he has lots of dog toys, but he still chews that spot on the couch, or the remote, or our shoes. Most of the time in those situations it's because the toys that have been provided are simply not interesting to the dog. So what can we do? Provide enrichment that our dogs enjoy. This can really be as complicated or easy as you make it. Some of the easiest and most productive enrichment you can provide are stuffed Kong toys. And there are so many different ways to stuff a Kong! One of the simplest and easiest ways is simply pack it full with wet dog food and freeze it. Providing at least one of your dogs meals in this manner is a great way to reduce stress in your dog, because licking and chewing is a natural stress reliever. Just last night I pulled out some frozen Kongs when my dogs started showing signs of stress and discomfort due to our neighbor, who was working on his motorcycle at the time, started backfiring the engine over and over. I gave them both Kongs, and the mild shaking and hiding behaviors stopped immediately. Other enrichment ideas include scent games (hide treats around the house for your dog to find), rotate your dogs toys, take sniffy walks (allow your dog to walk and sniff at their pace), and so much more. Check out the facebook group Canine Enrichment for more ideas!
5. Start Training Now. I have heard some people say they want to allow their new dog time to settle in, and learn to trust them before they start training, and I have to say this is really misguided notion. I think this thought comes from the idea that training will be hard on the dog, maybe include lots of punishment, and they want to make sure they have a good bond with their dog before subjecting them to possibly harsh training methods. With positive reinforcement (R+) training however, you don't have to worry about this at all because punishment is not a technique we rely on to train. R+ training is all about finding a positive way to communicate with your dog, and what better way to help your dog settle into their new environment than finding a common language (so to speak). Imagine being taken into a brand new environment, with new people, who don't speak the same language as you. What's the first thing you would try to do? Establish a way to communicate right? Thats what positive reinforcement training does for your dog. We use tools like clickers, which with training teach your dog what behavior was correct and will be reinforced, while ignoring and not reinforcing unwanted behaviors. This helps teach your dog what you would like him to do in certain scenarios, and when you reinforce those behaviors, they are more likely to repeat them, leading the desirable behaviors to become habit over undesirable behaviors. We can do all of this without the use of punishment, creating a positive bond with your dog.
6. Plan for the Future. Right now we are experiencing a time that is likely very different from what life was just three months ago. Many of us saw this as the perfect time to introduce a new dog to the family, which is wonderful considering the low numbers of homeless dogs in our humane societies. But what happens when life does go back to normal? When you go from working from home, to commuting back to the office every day? It's important to keep that in mind for the future. When the time comes to go back to work (when it is safe to do so) you will need to help your new dog adjust to that new routine. Start crate training now if you plan to leave your dog in a crate when you go to work. Practice teaching him how to be calm in his crate, and entertain himself with enrichment you provide while he is in there. Schedule a dog walker now, so that when you do go back to work, you have a plan for someone to give him a mid-day walk and potty break. Keep in mind any other activities you may start participating in again that you want your dog to either be a part of, or what you will do with him in the case you can't take him with you.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with your new dog, please reach out to us! We are happy to provide you with a free consultation when you sign up for either our dog walking or training programs, and we can help you get a handle on a new routine with your dog. We are happy to start booking daily dog walking routines for the future so you have us to rely on when we (hopefully) get back to work. Cascade Canine is here to be your resource for all things dogs! You can always reach us through out contact page, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.